In the world of family law, when someone is talking about an appeal, there are usually two very different situations involved. The first is an appeal to the Court of Appeals of Virginia. When a Circuit Court makes a ruling in a family law matter, most typically in a divorce, and one party believes that the Circuit Court judge made a legal error in its ruling or order, the party has a right to appeal that ruling to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals does not substitute its judgment for the Circuit Court judge.
For example, if the Circuit Court judge made a ruling that was legally proper (even if a party disagrees with the Court’s findings or rulings), then the Court of Appeals will not change the Circuit Court’s ruling. If, however, the Circuit Court made a legal error (such as using the wrong standard or framework for making a decision, or improperly admitting or excluding evidence, etc.), then the Court of Appeals will be more open to changing something about the Circuit Court ruling.
The process for noting your appeal to the Court of Appeals is very particular. There exist deadlines that begin to run once a final order has been entered. There is nothing that can be done once a deadline to appeal is missed. If you think that you want to appeal a ruling from the Circuit Court, talk to an attorney who handles appeals immediately.
The second scenario where you may hear about an appeal is when someone appeals a ruling they received in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to the Circuit Court. Cases such as custody, visitation, child support, and others may be heard in the Juvenile Court.
There is also an “appeal de novo” to the Circuit Court. This means you may appeal your ruling from the Juvenile Court to the Circuit Court and have a brand new trial as though the one in the Juvenile Court did not happen. This is a different kind of appeal. In this case, the Circuit Court hears the evidence all over again and makes a new ruling based on the facts of the case. It is not necessary to prove that the Juvenile Court judge made any legal error. There are timelines involved in this type of appeal as well.
At Phillips & Peters, we understand that these cases are time-sensitive and will make accommodations to consult with people on strict timelines.